ABOUT ROBERT PEARCE OAM
Robert Pearce is a piper whose hobby is his passion. Over the last 60 years, he has been involved in just about every facet of playing the Great Highland bagpipe and is a successful bagpipe maker.
He has been an avid piper since the age of ten and is one of New South Wales’ most successful solo pipers.
He was also Pipe Major of the Northern Suburbs Pipe Band for about 40 years.
Read below for more details on Robert's career.
Robert began learning the art of piping at 10 years of age with Manly Warringah Pipe Band and within twelve months played his first engagement on ANZAC Day 1958. At twelve, Robert began competing in the "Under 16" solo piping events where he was highly successful.
Robert sought to improve his playing and took lessons from Ray Anderson, one of Australia's top pipers. Under Ray's guidance, Robert competed in "Under 21" and "Open" events, often gaining places in all three categories.
During his 60 years of competitive piping, he has been one of NSW's most successful solo pipers.
He has won numerous solo events including the NSW Open State Solo Championship on many occasions, the NSW Pipers' Society Silver Chalice Piobaireachd (classical bagpipe event) Competition six times and the East Coast Australian Champion Open Solo Piper many times. He has also been the Champion Piper at local and regional Highland Gatherings.
In 1989, Robert was invited to accompany the Tasmania Police Pipe Band to Scotland as tutor and to participate in the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Robert has performed on stage for a variety of productions and events including Kenneth McKellar, Billy Raymond, Arthur Spink, Jennifer Shaw, Eric Idle and The Wiggles.
Northern Suburbs Pipe Band
Robert joined Northern Suburbs Scottish Pipe Band (a Grade 1 band at the time) at age sixteen, where he remained until it went into recess. In 1969 he joined Sydney Thistle Highland Pipe Band, becoming Pipe Major in 1972.
Robert reformed Northern Suburbs Pipe Band in 1978 and brought it up to win Grade 3 at the 1980 Australian Championships. By 1982, the band had reached Grade 1 standard. He remained Pipe Major of the band until 2016 and still remains a member of the band to this day. He was granted Life Membership of the band in 2021.
In 1980, Robert established 1/19th Royal NSW Regiment Pipes and Drums, an Army Reserve pipe band which drew members from all over NSW. His initial appointment was to the rank of Sergeant and rose to the rank of Warrant Officer before leaving the unit.
He competed with the City of Blacktown Pipe Band in 2006 in Grade 1 at the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. He has also run tuition sessions for many NSW bands and is currently tutoring the Castle Hill Pipe Band on a regular basis.
Pipe Band Association and Judge
Robert has been active within the NSW Pipe Band Association, serving for a number of years as a Councillor, member of the State Piping Panel and is a registered piping judge.
He has also been the State Principal for Piping with the Australian Federation of Pipe Band Associations.
He was made a Life Member of the NSW Pipe Band Association in 2018.
Learning the Bagpipe-making Craft
At seventeen, Robert was taught to make leather pipe bags and cane drone reeds by Ray Anderson and taught to make pipe chanter reeds by Peter O'Neill. Robert also tested bagpipes for James (Jimmy) Martin who migrated to Australian from Edinburgh where he had been the foreman to the bagpipe-maker James Robertson.
Robert learnt the craft of bagpipe making by observing Jimmy's skills and techniques and had made his first set of pipes by the age of 21. Starting in 1970, Robert began making and repairing bagpipes as a part-time hobby.
In 2000, Robert gave up his career as a school teacher to follow his passion in life and became a full-time bagpipe maker, repairer and player. He is now semi-retired.
Robert's contribution and dedication to the bagpipes was recognised in 1998 when he was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for "Service to music, particularly through the pipe band movement as a player, tutor, administrator, adjudicator and craftsman."